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Book Chapter

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Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal Moral, and Geopolitical Issues

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This book chapter addresses two questions. First, can targeted killing by drones in non-battlefield zones be justified on basis of just war theory? Second, will the proliferation and expansion of combat drones in warfare, including the introduction of autonomous drones, be an obstacle to initiating or executing wars in a just manner in the future? The first question is answered by applying traditional jus ad bellum (justice in the resort to war) and jus in bello (justice in the execution of war) principles to the American targeted killing campaign in Pakistan; the second question is answered on basis of principles of “just military preparedness” or jus ante bellum (justice before war), a new category of just war thinking. It is concluded that an international ban on weaponized drones is morally imperative and, certainly, that an international treaty against autonomous lethal weapons should be adopted.


This is a post-print version of a book chapter originally published in Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues, by Olive Branch Press. Archived with permission. Publisher reserves all rights.


Originally published in Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, ed. Marjorie Cohn (Northampton, Mass: Olive Branch Press, 2015), Chapter 9 (pp. 169-194). Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.